The bottom line is simple: If you play with clubs that suit your game and fit your swing, you will hit the ball farther, straighter and more consistently well. Hitting better golf shots will elevate your enjoyment of the game tremendously. So using the right equipment is a crucial component of this hobby of yours, which means you need to set your fears aside and go shopping, no matter how much you dread the thought. If you plan ahead and put in some work, you will to get the service you deserve.
Here's our step-by-step guide to getting the most out of your club-shopping experience:
1. Do your homework. Go online and look up the latest women's-club offerings from key manufacturers such as Ping, Callaway, Nike, Adams, Cobra, TaylorMade, Tour Edge, Mizuno, Titleist and Cleveland Golf (you can find reviews of many sets in our Golf Digest Woman Gear Spotlight section). Make a note of the different model names, and go to a reputable online retailer like golfsmith.com to find out the current street price for each product or set of clubs. Mark those prices on your list.
2. Find a demo day. Call the big on- and off-course golf retailers in your area and ask when they're hosting their next demo day. If there are none on the calendar in the near future, go to a store that you know carries a full line of brands and has either an outdoor or indoor hitting area. Bring your list of club brands and models, and ask to test every one (if the store doesn't have designated demo clubs in certain models, ask them to tape up the face of a new 7-iron or driver).
3. Narrow down the field. After hitting as many demo clubs as you can find, identify the two or three models you like the look, feel and performance of best and take down all the details of those clubs.
4. Bring your list to a reputable fitter. If the facility where you tested demo clubs offers professional fittings, you can get your clubs fitted there. But in most cases, you will get the best results at a smaller facility that specializes in independent launch-monitor fittings. Consult the Golf Digest ranking of America's 100 Best Clubfitters (if you don't find a fitter in your area in the ranking, there's a link to a list of 600 other fitters across the country on the same page). Ask around at your club, talk to other golfers--no matter how you go about it, identify the most reputable, unbiased fitter in your area. Call and book a launch-monitor fitting. Be prepared to pay for this service; it's worth it.
5. Ask to hit your finalists, as well as your current set, on the launch monitor. This will help you and the fitter identify which model gives you the best launch data. Things to compare are ball speed (you want it to be as high as possible), launch angle and spin rates. One note of caution: do NOT use taped-up clubs for launch-monitor testing. The tape renders the grooves useless and your resulting numbers inaccurate.
6. Get a thorough set-makeup evaluation. Depending on your launch conditions and clubhead speed, you might only need 10 clubs in your bag--or you might need 14. You might do better with five hybrids and two wedges, or you may be more successful having all fairway woods down to the 9-wood, then going in to the short irons. This is what a good fitter will help you discern.
7. Be prepared for surprises. You may learn that the clubs you thought were the best for you are nothing of the kind. Try to keep an open mind and embrace change. The launch-monitor numbers don't lie, and you'll be surprised how quickly you can get used to the look and feel of a club when you start hitting twice as many greens with it.
8. Turn on your BS radar. Remember that YOU are in charge. If a salesperson or fitter seems to be pushing you into a certain club without first going through the proper demo and fitting steps, pack up your things and take your money elsewhere. Never let anyone intimidate you into a sale.
--Stina Sternberg (Photo by Jonathan Tay)